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Black Demon King

  1. Looking for a Breakthrough

When I stepped on the Gluttony Octo’s head, I could feel the firmness and resilience of a thick rubber tire. Luckily, I ran at full speed on the surface of the flesh, which was surprisingly easy to tread on.

“Damn—! This is really tough—Blast!

As if jumping on rope, I evaded the gigantic tentacle that flew by, before exploding my blast blade on the octopus’ head.

“Air Slash!”

At the same time, Sariel unleashed wind martial arts. When I turned around to check, I saw a huge octopus with sharp tentacles resembling spears. Immediately, it rained down attacks on me. The onslaught was impossible for me to avoid with a single leap—

is this what it means when it’s raining spears?

“Watch out—!”

The only reason why I managed to avoid it was because Sariel had slashed off one of its tentacles. Thanks to that, I escaped with my life.

…Even so, the way that huge octopus perfectly aimed its tentacles was as if it could predict my next movement.

Considering that it had already happened thrice, it was no coincidence.

That was right.

After we landed on Gluttony Octo’s head, an army of octopuses swarmed us, leading to a short battle.

“They’re 13 meters ahead. I’ll subdue the big one on my left.” Said Sariel.

…Which one are you talking about?

In the next moment, a small explosion, followed by a reddish-black flash burst in rapid succession about 10 meters away.

Did she throw several of the Ignited Daggers I gave her?

Judging from Sariel’s position, she must’ve thrown it without looking, and precisely, at that. Not even the word ‘dexterity’ could describe her skill at this point.

Amidst my admiration, I confronted the group of tentacles that approached me head-on.

“Uoooorgh!”

I couldn’t tell how many were there by just looking.

In the next moment, the composite tentacles were entwined together, surrounding me from the front, behind, left, and right just like a woven rope.

—Or rather, it had turned into a ball to confine me.

Just before the cage of tentacles was shut completely, I swung the Zweihander on my right hand, before scorching it with the Flamberge on my left to make my escape.

As a matter of course, it was impossible to deal with the barrage of tentacles with just two consecutive hits.

But not to worry, because Sariel had drawn her rapier, and performed Sword Arts as a means of close-range defense. Looking at how she could sever a tentacle with just a wind blade, while I struggled to cut even one despite holding two swords, she had clearly surpassed my dual-wielding style.

Once again, I found myself in a near-death situation, one that I couldn’t survive without Sariel’s help.

…No, seriously, I wonder if this guy can see the future.

Despite having demonstrated boundless reliability, Sariel was still unable to become a decisive blow that’d deliver us from the overwhelming scenario.

“Am I naïve to think that…? Besides, this isn’t the time to be looking for a weak point.”

There were simply too many enemies.

Both my left and my right were full of slimy, lustrous, green enemies. They looked more like a forest of animated, man-eating plants than a swarm of octopuses.

Rather than searching for weaknesses, I should focus on running away. At first, I planned to go to the center of the Gluttony Octo’s head, but instead of getting closer to it, I was pushed further away.

…At this rate, I was likely to end up skydiving from the Gluttony Octo’s head in the near future.

“I’m having trouble finding parts that seem to be weak points as well—”

Amidst my run, I saw that the top of the Gluttony Octo’s head was covered in a terrifyingly thick layer of meat, making it difficult to find any weak spots. Not only that, the layer of meat also explained why the giant octopus’ underlings could ruthlessly stab their tentacles everywhere. After all, even if they were to stab two or three meters deep, the main body wouldn’t be damaged whatsoever.

…I doubted the magic and weapons we had on hand would be able to penetrate such thickness.

Not only that, considering how huge it was, everywhere would have the same layer of thickness.

“—No, I found it.”

“For real!?”

Rather than being happy about Sariel’s most recent discovery, I was utterly shocked.

“I could faintly hear an intake sound from behind. It’s probably a respiratory organ like gills.”

Gills were organs that took in oxygen from the water. It was a standard equipment that all sea creatures had.

However, Gluttony Octo—who had become both an aerial and a land creature, shouldn’t have one.

If such was the case, was it a unique respiratory organ developed from Ella, or just a remnant? Either way, if that was the case, there’d be another hole that led to its body apart from its mouth.

…I see, that can certainly be considered a weak spot.

If I could get past the meat wall, which boasted a thickness comparable to the Great Wall of Galahad, and hit it directly, things should work out somehow.

“Alright! Let’s put it to good use!”

I had to make an immediate decision.

Regardless of what awaited me, it was no use sitting to sit around here.

To escape from there, I ran towards the outer part. However, due to the overflowing octopuses blocking my vision, I almost lost my sense of direction several times. Nevertheless, thanks to Sariel’s exquisite support, I could somehow run straight through it.

“I can see the edges, is it okay to just jump?”

“I can feel the air flow. Without a doubt, there exists a cavity right below here.”

Since I didn’t have her perception skill, the ground just looked like a cliff.

The blue sky expanded in front of me, accompanied by a wall of white clouds.

As I dashed towards the void, did I look like someone who was eager to meet his demise?

Although, considering the fact that I carried Sariel on my back, I was a crazy suicidal.

Even so, I had no hesitation. While I didn’t trust Sariel, I believed in her abilities.

Uuuuoooorgggggh! Bind Arts!”

While dealing with the tentacles chasing after me from behind with the help of Sariel and Sword Arts, I jumped down with all my might, extending black chain from both arms as a lifeline.

The tips of the Bind Arts that I created were shaped like sharp claws with barbed edges. As in, the way Hitsugi always would. I grabbed it and positioned it in a way so that it’d pierce the meaty ground. After that, while stretching the jingling chain, I let myself free fall as it was.

Now, if nothing happened, we’d just be dangling in the air for no reason, but—

“—Ooh! There it is!”

After going down the cliff, which was roughly 20 meters tall, I saw a gill-like part that opened on the back side. However, the size was that of a cave. Approximately, it was 10 meters wide and about 3 meters high.

“Okay, it looks like we’ll be able to break through—let’s go!”

I conjured more Bind Arts and aimed them at the entrance of the Ella. As long as I concentrated, I could safely hang in the air without Hitsugi’s support.

Looking at the white ground far below my feet, I moved forward by swinging the chain like a trapeze and successfully rolled into Ella.

“…No one is pursuing us.”

“Could it be that they were unable to follow us?”

Standing at the entrance to Ella, where a lukewarm wind was blowing, I looked behind me. Not a single green tentacle could be seen. Even though there were so many of them, why didn’t any of them try to chase us?

“Anyway, now that they’re out of our way, this is our chance. Let’s head inside quickly—Light Torch.”

In order to illuminate the pitch-black path, I created a fireball that resembled a light torch with a pseudo-flame attribute, before throwing it inside. Ever since I boarded Last Rose’s main body, it had been a while since I played such a role. After all, Lily and Fiona were usually there for me.

Even though I rarely used it, the black flame sufficed as a source of lighting inside the Ella. Then, a sharp gleam flashed across my vision.

Soundlessly, it flew towards the gap in my armor, aiming for my throat. Despite the unparalleled accuracy, I managed to slash it away with my Zweihander.

“You’re the one who stabbed Reki.”

In the space illuminated by the black flame, a single, thin tentacle was outstretched, splashed with bright blue blood. The owner of the rope-like, extended tentacles could be seen wriggling on the ground, making an unpleasant, high-pitched, squeak just within the range of the illumination.

Rather than an octopus, its triangular head reminded me of a squid. Not only that, it also had six tentacles in total. I also noticed that two of its tentacles were three times longer than the rest, and that the color of its body was bright cyan. With the absence of fog, I doubted I’d miss it even if it were to blend in with a flock of octopuses.

Could it be, it was a different species than the Gluttony Octo? After all, considering how huge the host body was, it wouldn’t be strange for other monsters to inhabit it like a symbiotic relationship.

The length of the squid’s tentacle alone was about ten meters. With such a long range, if someone was targeted in a thick fog, it’d be hard to avoid. At that time, even if we ran straight ahead, Reki’s demise would still be inevitable. If not for the face-to-face conversation we had, I wouldn’t even notice that she was missing, or the culprit, for that matter.

However, if I was aware from the get-go, I could still be vigilant and try to intercept it.

“Don’t think the same trick will work twice, you damn squid.”

My anger welled up.

Before the assassin squid could attempt another surprise attack, I threw a grenade to finish it off.

This guy probably isn’t the one who stabbed Reki, it’s just the same species.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t contain my anger and spat curses.

“Some of them are still prowling around here. Be careful of surprise attacks.”

“I know—or rather, it already begins.”

From the other side of the darkness, two squids ferociously appeared. They probably thought that it was useless to hide any longer.

One crawled on the ceiling, while the other on the ground. While the one on the ground was more than twice as big, the number and shape of the tentacles were the same as the previous.

Then, is it just an individual difference?

Albeit of the same species, the two squids were different in size. However, both used their two, long, tentacles to attack, while the remaining four short tentacles were used to glide. The two long tentacles would then leap towards the prey, akin to that of a snake.

Unlike the octopuses, they were quite nimble.

…Is this a swift type?

Regardless, if it was just this, I could still keep up with them.

First, I calmly killed the first one with a splitting blast blade. Then, I aimed at the one on the ceiling, before unleashing my blast blade. In the next moment, the squid was sewn to the wall, before being enveloped in red and black explosion. As it let out its death howl, the squid became another fireball that lit up the cave.

The other, huge, one crawling on the ground could easily be cut down with a sword.

But then, it tried to overtake me with its long reach, but it didn’t matter because I already anticipated it.

Just like before, I slashed at the spear-tipped tentacles with my Zweihander. Even if there were two of them, thanks to the length of my blade, I dealt with it just fine.

After completely neutralizing the opponent’s attack, I used my second sword to intercept the squid that was charging towards me—

“—Hold on.”

I heard Sariel’s voice. No, before that, I had canceled my interception.

Due to the sudden cancellation of the attack and the need to avoid the attack, I rolled sideways.

While the action itself was a tad unreasonable, I did manage to escape peril. At that moment, as I rolled to my side while being coated in mucus, I saw a glimpse of navy-blue fabric at the edge of my vision.

“Hey, Sariel, no way…”

Despite losing two of its tentacles, the squid still turned around vigorously, and without crying in agony. The way it never lost its fighting spirit was the same as the other octopuses, who didn’t know fear—

—But something was amiss.

I didn’t notice it at first.

Or rather, I couldn’t because it was hidden. If I had paid any attention to it, I could’ve easily checked it.

“There’s no doubt about it. This is the one that caught Reki.”

Under the squid’s large body, the limbs of a person in a dark blue monk’s robe peeped slightly.

Her slender, white fingertips were motionless.

Even if her face was still obscured by the squid’s body and wriggling tentacles, I knew it was her.

Damn you—”

I reflexively tried to obliterate it, but when I extended my hand, no explosion occurred.

“…Hey, there’s no way Reki’s still alive, right?”

“That’s right.”

Despite knowing how useless it was, I still asked Sariel.

I certainly saw it—

—the moment Reki’s chest was pierced by the tentacle, I already knew it was fatal.

Besides, even if she was captured alive, it’d been nearly a week since then. At a glance, her body still looked intact. But no matter how I looked at her, I didn’t think she was alive. Moreover, it was also possible that the other half of her body—which I couldn’t see, had already gone.

In other words, it was just a corpse.

…And yet, I was unable to attack that very corpse.

I could’ve easily blown the guy into splinters using either my grenade or the Blast Blade. Alternatively, I could also use my Zweihander to chop its head in half.

If I just wanted to defeat it, there were a number of ways. However, if I added the condition of not damaging Reki’s remains, the hurdle was high.

Damn… even though she’s already dead, why did it become such a hostage situation?

“Do you hesitate to defeat that thing?”

“Shut up, I’m thinking.”

I didn’t want Sariel to think that I was a softie.

I didn’t want her to know—even though I knew it was useless.

I wanted to believe that it was only natural that I’d like to retrieve her body. However, under the current circumstance, I could also see why it wasn’t a priority.

I stood here shouldering thousands of lives.

Therefore, the body of a single dead human shouldn’t be in the equation.

Therefore, I shouldn’t be wasting my time in a dilemma.

Give it up.

Admit it—

—Reki is already dead.

You let her die.

“Sword Arts, Crack Blast—”

Gieeeeeeeeeee!!”

As I summoned a sword from the shadows, the squid roared. Was it trying to intimidate me? As the squid raised its head and spread its tentacles, I could see it—

Ah, as expected, there’s no doubt about it.

…I could see Reki’s pale face.

Her eyes were closed, as if she was asleep.

As if time had stopped, I froze with my sword in my hand.

I couldn’t do anything—

“—Let me do it.”

Then, Sariel appeared in front of me.

Before I knew it, my back became lighter. Somehow, she managed to remove her straps without falling.

Sariel assumed a sitting position.

On her left hand, a blade made of holy silver mithril could be seen—

“—Sariel, hold on!”

In vain, I reached out to her.

The moment Sariel lightly swung her rapier, her entire body leaped like a shot arrow. She was flying in the sky—no, it must’ve been because of the wind emanating from the rapier.

Transforming into a white whirlwind, Sariel pointed the sharp point of her rapier straight ahead, before leaping towards the squid with Reki’s remains.

“—Let me take care of Reki’s body. Air Overblast—!”

The mid-range offensive spell, Air Overblast, was activated as she plunged her blade into the squid, conjuring a storm. In the narrow, cave-like space, the tremendous gust of the wind struck me with the impact as if I was being blown away.

I could endure it by standing still, but Sariel, who was at the epicenter of the storm, was thrown off by the wind pressure surging out of the pierced squid.

Ah—

—By the time I realized it, Sariel, Reki, and the squid were blown out of Ella’s cave.

To self-destruct using her own technique.

No, Sariel deliberately did it.

She forcibly eliminated my weakness—which was Reki, from before me.

“You idiot…”

…The reason why my fist trembled, was it because of anger?

Anger towards Sariel for doing something so selfish.

Anger towards the squid for holding Reki’s corpse hostage.

…The reason was neither.

I was just angry because I let Sariel do something foolish.

Even though Sariel had lost her emotions, limbs, and protection, she still took care of me.

She pitied me.

My pride as a man—was there even a shred of it left?

“Damn, dammit—! Just you wait, I’m going to bring down this huge enemy right away!”

 

 

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